The streets are crowded. They are filled with pedestrians and cars. The market with its shops filled with clothing, household items, vegetables and fruits are all open. Women are shopping and the men are heading to work. There is a strange feeling about all this, as if you are in a different time and place. People stopped going to work late due to the checkpoints throughout the city and the army patrol vehicles that suffocated the people. Any sense of normalcy, such as this one, has been absent for 11 years. This strange feeling overcomes the prisoner most of all because as he takes his first steps outside the prison walls, he asks himself how one can move in a city with no checkpoints and no army patrol cars. How can one move in a city where there aren’t any recruits at checkpoints? After all, these are the types of people who cover their sense of fear by treating the people poorly.
Is this city the capital, Baghdad, the one that is protected by the “democratic government’s army”, the same government that reassures the people with a sense of stability? Is this government true to its claim when it says that it is there to protect the dignity and history of this country? Is the city I mention above Baghdad, the city whose people were promised that their religious and ethnic diversity would be protected? Is this the Baghdad that they promised would have freedom and liberty? Is this Baghdad, the same city whose people were told, give us six months only and we will get rid of the occupation in the same way we got rid of your tyrant? Is this the Baghdad that constantly stands on the edge of life and constantly wishes for nothing more than to wake up free of assassinations, arrests and torture?
The city I speak of is not the Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, which is supposed to be characterised by a sense of security and stability because it is home to government headquarters. It is not Baghdad, the city that is home to the largest American embassy in the world.
The picture I depicted above is the city of Mosul and its people. The description I mentioned above is a testimony for the people of Mosul who claim that this has been their reality for the last few days. The above description is based on testimonies that were broadcast on a number of news stations, which defied the censorship ban by broadcasting news relating to matters of terrorism. And yet, how can the people of Mosul, the residents of the second largest Iraqi province, the city of Iraq’s historical intellectuals and cultural pioneers, welcome ISIS’ terrorism with open arms? Has their human and moral compass been damaged to the point where they are willing to welcome a barbaric organisation into their midst? Why?
It is here that we must deconstruct our understanding of Mosul, a city of approximately two million people. What happened in Mosul was surprising to everyone, even the soldiers who took off their military uniforms within a matter of hours. This is significant because they swore on their lives and on their honour that they would defend the army, the nation and its people above all else. It was suggested that many military personnel (especially generals) hinted that the best option would be to run away. When the soldiers asked their commanders what was expected of them, they were met with the following response: “Figure it out for yourselves, it is every man for himself”. So, the soldiers figured it out for themselves. They fled and left behind modern and sophisticated arms, weapons and devices that the Iraqi people paid America billions of dollars for.
The testimonies of Mosul’s residents show that ISIS’ barbaric reputation is what initially encouraged the soldiers to flee. Once residents were reassured of how calm the situation was, ISIS members allegedly encouraged families and workers to return to their jobs. In this way, ISIS was able to provide the people with everything the Maliki regime failed to do despite its large budgets. Electricity became available for all hours during the day as well as more water and basic civil services. Another important point that must be highlighted is that Mosul’s residents claim to be enjoying this newfound sense of calmness and appreciate the fact that no one is being bullied based on their ethnic or religious affiliations.
And yet, how is it possible that ISIS, a supposedly barbaric and terrorist organisation, can act in such a civilised way in the midst of the people? How can they possess the morality and etiquette that even the most sophisticated armies lack during times of war? When looking back at the actions of both the British and the American armies during the Iraqi occupation, one finds that that era was full of massacres, political arrests and the rape of many women and men. Is that not a clear example how many armies lose their sense of morality? How can a city in its entirety fall to a few hundred ISIS members? Does this event not call into question the narrative that is being promoted by the Maliki regime, his allies and the American administration, especially since they abandoned their posts suddenly and refused to carry out their responsibility of protecting citizens from terrorism?
The message that the Maliki regime is trying to promote is a slogan that was made in America: “The War on Terror”. It was in the name of this war that both Iraq and Afghanistan were invaded and occupied. In order to protect themselves from the consequences of this war, countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia stood by America’s side in a clumsy attempt to cover up their corruption. The media and notable intellectuals have participated in spinning this fabricated story. The people of Iraq have suffocated under the regime’s lies and they do so on a daily basis. Anyone who dares to lift his or her voice in protest is labelled, according to the Maliki regime, as a member of Al-Qaeda, pro-Saddam or pro-ISIS. Al-Maliki often uses these labels in his weekly speeches to terrorise and provoke the Iraqi people, as if the torture, executions and random shelling were not enough.
All of the factors mentioned above lead us to question whether or not the people are truly in need of ISIS, which is fast approaching its borders, or foreign intervention to get rid of the sectarian regime? Is ISIS truly the party responsible for liberating the city of Mosul and did the people welcome them with open arms? Or was it the people themselves who decided that they no longer wanted to be oppressed and decided to liberate themselves after seeing that the armed forces were nothing more than a corrupt and sectarian organisation? According to reports circulating in the media, the people decided to revolt against the Iraqi army and members of a previous Iraqi resistance group that called itself the General Military Council of Iraqi Revolutionaries. While the Maliki regime depends on news channels to broadcast their news, the revolutionary council is forced to take an indirect route by publishing its news and statistics via social networking sites.
Members of ISIS are relatively small in number but this actuality still functions as a double-edged sword because the Maliki regime uses them as a scapegoat to garner more US and foreign support. ISIS’ name and image have been magnified in the media to something much larger than reality and this is what prompted the Iraqi army to flee and accelerated their departure from the city. Members of the Military Council of Revolutionaries are distancing themselves from fighting with ISIS as much as possible because they themselves once fought with Al-Qaeda.
The overriding sense of fear found in many of parts of Iraq today is due to the regime’s exploitation of its power to terrorise all cities without discrimination, especially after the regime finally resorted to requesting American assistance. Reports have indicated a high possibility for airstrikes and the use of drones in this alleged fight against terror, which will do little more than send the people, their resistance and uprising to hell. The realisation of the democratic dream in Iraq will, in large part, be due to the Iraqi people’s work and struggle to achieve this dream. It does not and cannot rely on any foreign intervention, whether regional or international, whether it comes from ISIS or another organisation. We must learn from our history and realise that achieving democracy in Iraq cannot be done via the current regime, America or Britain.
This is a translation of an article first published on Al-Quds
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.